GI: I held migrants in self-defense — (The Arizona Republic)

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The Arizona Republic

Robert Anglen

Apr. 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Accused vigilante says he feared 7 men were going to attack him
Patrick Haab said he was a victim, not a vigilante, when he drew a pistol on several undocumented immigrants who he said rushed toward him out of the darkness of an Arizona rest stop this week.

“I acted in self-defense,” the 24-year-old Army Reserve sergeant said during a news conference filled with contradictions Wednesday at the Maricopa County jail where he is being held on seven counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. “I thought they were going to attack me.”

Dressed in prison stripes and shackled with chains at his ankles, Haab said he had no idea that the men were undocumented immigrants at the time he drew his pistol from a holster he often wears.
“I was not looking for any trouble,” he said. “I’m not prejudiced in any way.”

While Haab denied that his actions were planned or meant as a statement, his arrest has served as a lightning rod in a storm of controversy building along the 389-mile Arizona-Mexico border.

Supporters of several self-proclaimed civilian border patrols, who are converging in southern Arizona cities to help stem the flow of illegal immigration, are calling Haab a hero for taking quick and decisive action to stop an illegal border crossing.

But authorities say that Haab’s actions were dangerous and violent and that he should be prosecuted for taking the law into his own hands.

Meanwhile, Haab’s family is worried that he is being used as a political scapegoat and that authorities will convict him and send him to jail to send a message to fringe groups on the border.

“This couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” said Haab’s father, Dave Haab, of New Paris, Ind. “They are trying to make an example out of Pat. They are trying to avoid a blood bath down there on the border. I think he has been charged unfairly and that he is being used as a political football.”

Dave Haab, who arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday, spent the day attempting to find a lawyer to represent his son and arrange his release on a $10,000 bail bond. He described his son as a good soldier who had just returned from the Iraq war and was weeks away from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The younger Haab is assigned to a special-operations unit out of Kalamazoo, Mich., and has worked as a civilian affairs specialist. His duties include acting as a liaison between civilians and the Army in areas of conflict.

Patrick has served in Kosovo and Iraq since joining the U.S. Army Reserve. His 11-month stint in Iraq ended in October.

Army officials in Michigan could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But Haab’s father said an Army captain in Kalamazoo said Patrick’s transfer would be put on hold until his case was resolved.

Patrick moved to Arizona in January, and, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, was rejected for a job as a detention officer at the jail where he is now being held.

Although officials could not give a cause for the rejection, on a document at the time of his arrest Sunday night, deputies noted that he was “mentally disturbed.”

During his interview, Patrick denied that was the case, saying that he has taken medication for depression following bouts of post-traumatic stress.

“I lost a very close friend in a roadside bombing,” he said.

Several times during the news conference, Patrick said that his military training took over when he saw the men coming out of the bushes. He said he pulled over at the rest stop in Sentinel on Interstate 8 to relieve his dog. He said he was walking the dog when the men appeared.

Although Patrick said he had no preconceived notions about who the men were, he also said he thought they were going to attack him because they thought he was a Border Patrol agent.

He said his dog, a black Labrador, is similar to ones used by Border Patrol agents. He said he first saw one man walk out of the bushes toward a white Chevy Suburban with California license plates parked in the lot next to Patrick’s car.

A few seconds later, six more men emerged. Although Patrick said at one point that he was “attacked,” he later acknowledged that none of them had weapons and none tried to touch him. But he insisted that might not have been the case if his dog had not gotten between them and if he had not been armed.

When the immigrants saw his gun, Patrick said, they walked toward the Suburban and climbed inside. Explaining that he was still concerned for his safety, Patrick followed the men to the vehicle and, with the gun aimed at them, took the car keys away from them. He said he then called 911 and asked the dispatcher whether he should order the men out of the vehicle.

Patrick said the 911 dispatcher told him to use his best judgment. He said he gave a second gun, a Derringer that he kept in his car, to another motorist who was also stopped at the rest stop. Patrick said the other motorist knew Spanish and confirmed that the men had crossed the border illegally.

He said he then ordered the men out of the Suburban and told them to lie on the ground, where he kept them covered with his weapon for 30 minutes while waiting for authorities. He said the other driver returned his weapon and left before authorities arrived.

The immigrants were taken to a federal facility in Yuma.

Patrick said repeatedly that he did not threaten the immigrants.

“I never patted any subjects down,” he said. “I never pulled the (gun’s) hammer back.”